Health agencies fear poison milk may enter Burma

Health agencies fear poison milk may enter Burma

Health agencies fear poison milk may enter Burma

Updated 19 December 2011, 13:22 AEDT

Health authorities in several countries are anxiously testing imported baby milk formula made by Chinese firms who have admitted illegally adding melamine to dairy products.

The contaminated milk formula that is known to have killed at least four babies in mainland China.

Chinese officials have confirmed that two of the 22 producers that sold the tainted formula had also exported it to Bangladesh, Yemen, Burma, Burundi and Gabon.

While over 50,000 babies have also been affected in across China, critics of Burma's government say Chinese baby formula is still selling well within Burma.

They are worried that a lack of access to information means that parents aren't aware there could be a problem.

Monique Skidmore, a medical anthropologist who has written extensively on Burma told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program, the concerns are justified.

"There have been as yet absolutely no public annoucnement, here's nothing on state media," she said.

"But in Burma, its very unusual for state media to actually tell the population aboutthese sorts of things until its become a very seriuos issue and its become too big in some ways to avoid reporting".

Professor Skidmore believes it is unlikely that there will be a major problem in most rural areas, but there could be problems in border regions.

While several relief agencies are in the country, most do not have the capacity to monitor and regulate milk products.

Shantha Bloemen from UNICEF says they are concerned about the situation in China spreading to other countries in the region.

However, she says the problem can be averted by encourageing mothers to breast feed their children.

"In all the countries in our region including Myanmar, we are actively working with the ministries of health and others to promote exclusive breast feeding.

"Basically breast feeding has been well proven as the best source of nutrition for chikldren and ultimately there is no need to use formula.

You can find the full story at the Connect Asia website: http://radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia

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